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Paul Tracy DANISON
Paris, France
Coach humanist
Interests: Human potential
Recent Activity
"La Petite Collection" 2018 exhibition of original post-card size miniatures by contemporary French visual artists takes place from 6 to 15 December at Galerie Bertrand Grimont, 42-44 rue de Montmorency 75002 Paris. Works from La Petite Collection 4ème Edition and previous shows can be seen and purchased on the web. See the links below - Artist: Pat Andrea In past times, when la Joyeuse Fête wasn’t just Karine and I getting as sloppy as politeness will bear on other people’s liquor and dancing in New Year at a German opera, my son Boo’s enthusiasm for progress and self-improvement would sometimes flag. In such moments of childish despair, I would wag my index finger gravely and say to my sweet boy, “Soft trousers, Boo. Soft trousers, man”. He would laugh and buck right up, as if I’d popped a Sugar Puff Blaster into that cute little cupid-bow bouche. “Soft trousers” is our way of naming "true progress". It was our little joke then, as it still is now. It comes from reading Raymond Briggs’ Ug: Boy Genius of the Stone Age. Briggs is also the author of that sublime Winter’s Tale, The Snowman. Ug, the boy genius, was the first to see that soft trousers would be a vast improvement over stone trousers. Lucky for us. How then in stone trousers would we dance Salsa? And what would tailors be? As well as lifting and soothing Boo’s progress-and-improve blues, Ug also commented my own childhood without my having to utter a single word. This interested my Boo, you bet. Achieving soft trousers requires genius and good humor, certainly, but, especially, a vision and footwork. Artist: Nathalie Sizaret Artist: Anahaita Masoudi Giving potential art-buyers an opportunity to look at a wide but manageable variety of the visual work of artists that gallerists, exhibitors and fellow creators think are the best on the market, Florence Lucas’ La Petite Collection has achieved soft trousers in the realm of appreciating and buying visual art. Artist: Caroline Ballet Each Petite Collection creator produces two 10cm x 15cm (4- by 6-inch) originals that sell for an affordable 150€ apiece. And, as over its three previous years, the Petite Collection will this year present examples of work by not fewer than 100 contemporary visual artists in postcard format. A complete list of contributors figures at the end of the article. Artist: Rachel Marks Creator contributors are selected by Lucas who, with the help of friends and colleagues, puts together a list of the best work encountered at galleries and exhibitions during the year past. She makes her call for contributions in Spring. Artist: Daniel Otero Torres Contributors may be entirely new on the scene or have already shown. New or established artist or not, the selection process means that artists are effectively vetted twice – by the gallerist or exhibition curator, as well by Lucas. Lucas says she makes her choice of Artist: Célia Coette contributors on what she calls the “interest” of their work in terms of... Continue reading
Posted Nov 25, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
Photo: “Evol” © Herman Sorgeloos “Evol”– an anagram of “love” which also recalls “evolution” – shares the love of the bodies of the dancers and the beauty of their movements … [The Angels] see cleary that [Humans] are not really at home in the interpreted world. Perhaps there remains some tree on a slope, that we can see again each day: there remains to us yesterday’s street, and the thinned-out loyalty of a habit that liked us, and so stayed, and never departed. First Duino Elegy, Rainier Marie Rilke (A. S. Kline) “There is something of Giselle in it,” said I to Karine, darkly, after seeing Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker’s Verklärte Nacht (“Transfigured Night”) the other evening at the Espace Cardin. It’s not that I object to the hokey melodrama; neither Karine nor I are strangers to inconvenient evolutions of affection, god knows. Emotive incontinence or problematic pregnancy, either, for that matter. But. I meant to tell her that Giselle or Verklärte Nacht or most other ballet-classic dance pieces use the body to tell a story rather than using the body so that it tells some-body’s story. So, I think the need to tell Verklärte Nacht’s story – de Keersmaeker wrote the choreography for the music, after all – means that the fluidity of Samantha van Wissen’s modern-dance expressionism (of bodily feeling and emotion) must necessarily stumble over Schoenberg’s made-just-for-ballet-style melodrama. Photo: “Verklärte Nacht”, Courtesy Festival d’Automne She’s pregnant by one man but loves another. But what’s hers will be his says the beloved. Since the whole strength of Claire Croizé’s Evol – which opened at the Théâtre de la Bastille not too terribly long ago – is that the some-bodies tell themselves, there’s no worry of expression stumbling over a story. The art in Croizé’s choreography is in keeping the way wide enough for improvisation that works as performance; she does that. Inspired by Rainier Marie Rilke’s Duino Elegies, which hold that a human being exists outside of thought, belief, tradition, philosophy and religion, Croizé says the idea behind Evol - an anagram of “love” which also recalls “evolution” - is “to share the love of the bodies of the dancers and the beauty of their movements”. As Evol goes forward, sometimes accompanied by music from David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust, sometimes by silence, performers improvise personal movement that expresses their different personalities. Evol opens with the cast spreading itself in a diagonal line, back corner to front corner, across the stage, giving the impression of a spray of salt or of flower petals. Two women performers – I identified them as “Blue” and “Grey” in my notes – detach. They remain non-positioning in respect to each other as they dance silence, though it does seem that Grey uses her body as a semaphore from go; from this begins an almost by-the-numbers introduction of personalities, of some-bodies. I was struck by what seemed an almost continuous signaling and semaphoring, although it Hands and arms point and wave more than propel... Continue reading
Posted Nov 15, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
In hip hop, the cultural power of African-America has combined the radical politics of Thomas Jefferson with the radical humanism of Ralph Waldo Emerson to create the first true universal citizens living out a first truly global culture. Continue reading
Posted Nov 7, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
Photo: Courtesy Lafayette Anticipations As in any virtual amusement park, Mr & Ms Public must take a ticket and patiently wait their turn to ride Simon Fujiwara’s empathy machine, now at Lafayette Anticipations in the Marais Move over Woody Allen. An empathy machine, pictured above, trumps the filmmaker's celebrated Banana's orgasmatron, at least as an opening image for Simon Fujiwara’s Revolution installations at Lafayette Anticipations’ new spaces in the Marais, which run until the first week of January 2019. Fujiwara's machine, actually called Empathy1 simulator, and installed on the ground floor of the building, is complementary to three installations on two upper floors. Each installation points and questions the volume and ubiquity of images and image technology and the representation of self. All are esthetic and emotional successes. Such success is certainly owing to Fujiwara’s effective execution of his concepts and intentions but also I think to the very skillful configuration of the building’s modular space: there is an extra-fine touch at work in light and surface, in empty and full, in distance, dimension and position. Revolution is a first solo show in France for Fujiwara - a multidisciplinary artist who has worked at the Tate and MOMA, as well as in Berlin & Tokyo - and follows on an earlier collaboration with the foundation and Centre Pompidou. Empathy 1, constructed by a simulation-equipment manufacturer on the artist’s concept, is a real sit-down-strap-in experience that uses YouTube footage, amusement park ride-like movement, strobe, rushing air and splashing water to create a simulation of life that is “truer than Disney”, I heard Fujiwara say, and which he describes as a “sculptural experience”: riders find it fun. The installations upstairs include a Happiness Museum, which breaks down happiness to data and artefacts, a still and film presentation of a certain Joanne Salley, and, on the top floor, a wax figure representing Anne Frank. Salley is a former art teacher of Fujiwara whose career was ruined when some British tabloid published pictures of her with her breasts exposed; Anne Frank is of course one of the most moving symbols of the horror of the Shoah. Photo: Courtesy Lafayette Anticipations Joanne Salley lost control of her image when a tabloid published photos of her with her breasts uncovered. She is determined to get it back and rebrand Fashionista-style photo posters fixed to a sort of raised platform or plinth hide as much as they reveal the energetic, classy, athletic, lovely, lively, cool, etc., etc., etc. Joanne Salley they depict. Embedded behind this… monument(?) … is a screen showing a continuous loop documentary, featuring Salley, of Salley’s effort to regain control of Salley’s image, an image that came to control Salley; no victim, Salley’s determined to recapture the “Salley brand”. The documentary’s story line carries you through this latter irony and pushes you on to the uncomfortable realization that indiscreet breast handling in the 21st century will get an unwary female punished, severely (and didn’t it recently happen to a competitor at a world-level tennis... Continue reading
Posted Oct 31, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
Karine says Slow Walk is meditation; Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker says walking is her dance; Kata says we dance because we are otherwise alone. Cute shoes As part of the Festival d’Automne’s tribute to her work, the choreographer Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker led a “Slow Walk” – actually five walks of about three-quarters of a mile over four hours from different points around the Place de la République, the rally point – a place Karine and I haven’t seriously been since the popular rally for liberal values following the appalling 2015 mass murders here in Paris. Since it costs nothing and requires a unique human skill, walking always speaks to us. So, this past Sunday, first day of Fall, ‘though it was mostly raining in that sudden, voluminous, gatling-gun way it rains these days, we went in for a Slow Walk. For de Keersmaeker, a Slow Walk is “Just walk. Slow down the rhythm and rediscover your joints, your pulse, your weight and slip into another relationship with time and movement”. Most Slow Walkers translated de Keersmaeker’s idea, as Karine did, as a very slow, deliberate step, one foot in front of the other, at a pace 16-times slower than an average one. Karine says a Slow Walk is a meditation. I didn’t look at it this way, though; I live to move and move to live; standing still is not my usual way to understanding. Also, I no longer do anything that makes me uncomfortable, like stand in the rain, unless the payback is way above real or analogous minimum wage, or there’s just no help for it. The slogan of the Slow Walk was “My walking is my dance”. I chose to translate that into a Slow Walk in the way any other cheerful four-year old would: by moving my butt in a way I hoped would attract attention, chatting up strangers and as often as possible sloughing off to get cake and ice cream and out of the rain. Once all of us diverse and differently-abled slow walkers had arrived at the Place de la République, the rain stopped. The sky cleared slightly, even, and, standing beneath the monumental statue of Marianne and her friends Liberté, Egalité Fraternité, de Keersmaeker gave us a dance lesson: had us running this way and that way, fast and slow, hopping, flailing and stretching across the square. When de Keersmaeker had us all warmed up, we danced both rainlessly and brainlessly together for a bit under an hour. A big change from last time, but not so much of one as you might think. Then, as the rain began again, we all quickly scattered to the four metros and homeward. At home, I found a note from Kata. Since she has been back in Japan, she wrote, she has been thinking about Why do we dance? She had one possible response; she wanted to share it. “We dance because we long to see our friends‘ perspectives,” she wrote. “We cannot experience... Continue reading
Posted Oct 23, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
Performing over better than three hours, LNI never, ever, slipped into any other mode than iconic… Mes absences sont du sentiment - “Christine” – Christine & the Queens Multidisciplinary artist LNI’s Le Baiser de la pute/Kiss of the whore performance piece, which I experienced at FRASQ#2 performance art program last summer at the Générateur de Gentilly, is a good illustration of how a performance piece can impose itself as any other work of art can: through a combination of right theme, right action, right time, right place. As a person who can’t, or won’t, sit peacefully at home – I have many brothers and sisters in this family I think – it might be said of us that we liked LNI’s piece because it gave us something to do in the evening. Or because we are ferocious. Or because I’m a dirty old man. Or because Karine is a cougar. True enough in one respect. If not gadding the evening away out and about, I lie restless and disgruntled on the couch. True, she busies herself, furious, damn her. I furiously jiggle my legs more than usual as she works out her désoeuvrement by swiping at stuff with a rag dangling from the tips of her long, dry, strong, sharply nailed, fingers, what she calls “tidying” but is really self-medication. Poor woman, brought up girl. And my désoeuvrement does not cry out to her, “Be still thou unquiet heart!” seize and plunge those long, hard fingers into my raging flesh. Instead, brought up boy, poor man, my mind’s eye begins contemplating in the smear of unwashed windows the heavier fecal matter of what’s left of our nasty, short and brutish lives as they sink toward the unclean bottom of this overheated, under-oxygenated gutter we absurdly call a life. In such circumstances, it is far, far better to take each other by the hand and boldly venture into the world of performance art. Is it not? Unstill lives apart, the whole truth is that – my girl and me – we like performance art because a one-time live performance like LNI’s Le Baiser has the same potential esthetic depth as Tristan and Isolde or The Nightwatch. LNI is able to perfectly project the heart and soul of one of those Catholic devotional cards Deliberately not hemmed in by a lot of conventional or customary constraints, as are more formal modern and contemporary genres, live performance art is always a lot more accessible, which is one of the reasons why I suppose it’s developed so much over the last 50 years or so. The uniqueness inherent in the ephemerality of live performance generally – Tristan or Le Baiser and especially “performance art” – “events”, “happenings” and “situations”, indeed, any un-nameable, bound-and-determined Queen-Elizabeth look-alike setting fire to a brace of milk-fed pink kittens – lends all performance, including “performance art” intrinsic value. But the particular value of performance art is not just in its uniqueness but also its performance: Tatsachen (“fact” in German)... Continue reading
Posted Oct 17, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
the arms are the motor of a body that joins the movement of liberty, becoming: jump, turn, again and again “Violin Phase” (1981) is the first of the four 15-minute segments of Fase, Four Movements to the Music of Steve Reich, Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker’s first professionally-recognized work. The piece was staged as part of the Festival d'Automne's tribute to the choreographer's oeuvre, as well as Lafayette Anticipations' start-up Echelle Humaine dance festival. a body, nothing-nowhere: jump, turn, again and again De Keersmaeker had intended to dance it herself in the modulable spaces created in Lafayette Anticipations building, on an un-raised black-mat type platform carefully covered in very white sand and set on the ground floor in a well made by three wrap-around balconies. Her idea, she said, was to (use her own body to) renew the piece in light of 37 years of experience of listening, a body that dares: jump, turn, dare again dare again a body that breaks out bit by bit, ecstasy: jump, turn, again and again rehearsing and performing. a body that dares, gets born: jump, turn, again and again Yuika Hashimoto, a member of de Keersmaeker’s Rosas dance troupe, traces of “Violin Phase”, 15 September 2018, Lafayette Anticipations, Paris performed in de Keersmaker's stead, in light of her own experience. As her performance showed, Hashimoto is a performer of great precision in gesture and of emotional power in movement. spiral I was on the first balcony facing the stage entry area, my back to a heavy square pillar, so Hashimoto was in my direct line of sight, slightly right of my center. As her darting feet drew a sand-dollar? or a turn again lotus? or a rose? or a spiral? I felt Hashimoto's concentration on her body in my own belly, as when my fingers draw negligently along Karine’s spine. As I rose saw Karine look at me with a question, I saw in Hashimoto’s dance a tableau: nothing-nowhere, birth, ecstasy, become. Karine, looking, felt, she said, "a body that dares, a body that breaks out bit by bit by bit to join the movement of liberty". Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker When Hashimoto had taken her bows, as the white sand was swept away, de Keersmaeker came out Yuiki Hashimoto to talk. This was not scheduled but it apparently happened at all three performances. She explained that a fall from a horse clipped her wings and as she explained, favoring strongly her left shoulder, in the traces of white sand on the black platform, the side-lined dancer scuffed out the sand-dollar? lotus? rose? spiral? figure performing "Violin Phase" creates. rose window sand dollar For this first of her pieces, de Keersmaeker said, looking up into and around the balconies, she had wanted to start at the beginning of dance, like a kid: jump, turn and wave the hands: do that again and again. So, with the arms as motor “Violin Phase” does just so: jump, turn, repeat and let loose the natural variation of... Continue reading
Posted Oct 9, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
Circle within circles (1923) I left Cindy Van Acker’s “Zaoum” thinking of Kandinsky… and… Cindy Van Acker is thought one of the moving spirits in the transmuting of abstractions into dance performance gold and Zaoum, featured at Rencontres chorégraphiques internationales 2018, is an avatar. Zaoum works like one of those constructivist paintings of lines and triangles on a piece of wood or cardboard, forcing the spectator into a Baroque Mass of feeling and meaning. Lyubov Popova’s stage plan for Vsevolod Meyerhold's “The Magnanimous Cuckold” (1922) … Also thinking that "Zaoum" works up a stage to contain and shape, rather than facilitate, concept, choreography & music… and… From the beginning to end Zaoum played on my senses as pictures at an exhibition. It is expressionist in performance, evocative in music, constructionist in set. My eye senses the presence of Klimt, Franz Marc, Gontcharova, Lyubov Popova and Kandinsky – artists whom I know and who all point outside from speech to a language of intuitions and unique or personal meanings, I think, rather than sign and gesture. Memory and intelligence construct meanings and perspectives: symbols from postures, legends from physical tropes. … Also the hustling geometries and decorative use of script of Natalia Gontcharova, by the way, one of the main scene painters for Diaghilev’s Ballets russes … and… The Cyclist (1913) “Zaoum” is the name Russian Futurists gave to their “pure sound” poetry, “za” beyond and “oum” mind. Van Acker remarks in her notes that zaoum points her vision of dance as “a force of possibility, liberation and life”. In Zaoum, choreography plays against scenography to evoke mood or stoke the sense; building a strong link between set esthetic and choreography concept seems one of Van Acker’s trademark abilities, as the mix of set geometry and slow body movement in Lanx (2008), or most other of her pieces, suggests. The choreography is accompanied by Luigi Nono’s 1982 Quando stanno morendo. Diario polacco N. 2 (“While they die. Polish Diary”), a tribute to and remembrance of Poland’s Solidarity worker’s movement, dissolved by a Soviet-inspired military coup d’état in 1981. Zaoum is intensely visual, for both the outer and the inner eyes. Die großen blauen Pferde – Big blue horses (1911) … Also Franz Marc can transmogrify brush-strokes and primary color into pure sensuality, into Baroque masses of meaning and … To remind spectator eyes that black is a not a color but the absence of light, the auditorium is plunged into absolute darkness. As well as by a strange vocalization, the blackness is penetrated by apparently body-less limbs suspended in space. The black space also suggests itself as a sea, perhaps Hades’ sea is black and slick, like a gout of raw petroleum. The black waves propel the dance forward into a space that radiates intense white light from above and below, a sort of waffle iron. The dancers arrive as couples, one of whom becomes boneless and seemingly lifeless. An amplifying manipulation from an animate partner seems to awaken the lifeless... Continue reading
Posted Oct 2, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
Quand elle sera, elle aussi, aussi fluide que cette eau, Et elle aura, elle, le geste de cette fille, sur le banc, celle-là, Qui hoche la tête, qui parle, chuchote presque. A sa sœur ? Inviterai-je ta machine à table avec le chat le chimpanzé et autres des miens. Il y a hâte ? When that machine has the fluidity of water in this carafe And the look and moment of that girl there, with her drink, The one shaking her head, talking soft and intense. To a sister? I’ll ask the cat and the goldfish, the ape, too, to pull it out a chair. Is it important? Continue reading
Posted Sep 29, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
Photo © Agathe Poupeney / Opéra national de Paris Crystal Pite "Season’s Canon" is brilliant, a combination of dance professionalism and choreography that always lines up with the underlying sense of the piece “It used to be that the scene faded out when people decided to have sex”, I told our table partners, making sure to send a dark look in Karine’s direction – I’m never quite sure how the woman might take my gassing. Worse still, hers often turns out to be an understanding closer to the truth than my own. “Fading sex out of the picture and saying it was happening has been dam’ useful”. I leered at ‘em in Flashman style, putting a glass of vino to my smacking lips. I went on to say that putting aside the broader truth that there can be no unfortunate or costly errors of appreciation in the dark, sexual fade-out killed at least three other birds with a single, inexpensive, consensual hallucination. Sexual fade-out allowed intellectuals and actors to think themselves racy and avant-garde, satisfied the censors’ guild as to their liberalism and titillated the spectator. All without challenging a single attitude. Of course, today’s “fade in” techniques – actually, “unfading out” –, in which lots of irrelevant but apparently sex-related stuff is played upon the stage, challenges no attitudes either. I mean “attitude” in the sense of trajectory adjustments, as for a rocket launcher or tank barrel, but applied to the human psyche: “Attitude, n., 15th c., Late Latin, “aptitudo”, tech., term of art: mental geometry relative to the projection of belief, value, idea, thought & action into the real world. “Jesus God, Mrs. Robinson”, Benjamin Braddock might have exclaimed had the show’s producers heard seen the drawing, “That sucker is really big!” – Image originally published 23 March 2017, by Céline Misiego, "La Chronique féministe" It’s the beginning of the 2018-19 school year and a ministerial circular is reminding school principals that the 2001 law requiring three “sexuality” classes a year in each school grade has not been implemented. Its opponents are able to raise a furore by claiming schools will “teach masturbation”. Science & Avenir pointed out in its summer issue that the only publically available correct anatomical drawing of a clitoris appeared in a French middle-school text book in 2017 (Wikipedia says a first correct anatomical drawing appeared in 1844). Cynic that I have been made out to be, I fear that even a real anatomical drawing of a real clitoris won’t change any social attitudes, or the human trajectory, even if it’s in an approved textbook, even published in Wikipedia and even for those, apparently few, who have had actual sex with actual women, even for individual masturbating females, victims of a liberal educational system. Believe it as you will, but I’ve been thinking of all this because Karine and I were to see a four-bill show at the Opéra Palais Garnier*. The show was opened by James Thierrée’s Frolons, sustained by Ivan Pérez’ The... Continue reading
Posted Sep 26, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
[FRASQ] #10, “Rencontre de la performance”, begins its 10th year of multidisciplinary performance at the Générateur in Gentilly from 6 to 20 October 2018, it's worth a bus ride, let alone a mass. Photo©BertrandBousquet FRASQ is a circus of senses and intentions. The aim of the requirement for intelligent non-creativity and up-to-the-last-second fluidity is to renew the performance. In the 400 square meter open space of the Générateur, performers and onlookers are crowded together (but not pell-mell) and must take account of contents, intentions and medias and their own physical positions and mental postures … and each other Chloé Silbano, a painter of the ineffable details of human movement also has a taste for then making somehow apt performances around them. She invited me to see one her oddly apt events at an event called FRASQ#2 at a place called the Générateur in a place called Gentilly, which kisses the bottom of the 13th arrondissement in the far south. Gentilly, strangely, is directly linked to the Porte de Bagnolet in the north east by the 57 bus, hardly any walking involved. Also, Silbano’s performances tend to radiate a sort of butter-won’t-melt-in-her-mouth humor that tickles as much as perplexes me. So I went. Wine, Sir! More wine! Photo©ChloéSilbano Chloé Silbano paints the ineffable details of human movements. She invited me to FRASQ#2 performance event at the Générateur in Gentilly, near which kisses the bottom of the 13th arrondissement and is no worse for it This astonishing 57 bus brings those passengers boarding in the northeast and who might just wish it, to, virtually, in front of the Générateur. Unsurprisingly, I’ve realized, if one but adds 5+7, one obtains the number 12, which of course denotes Shiva’s divine aspects and is of course divisible into four groups of three, which of course is the number of the mystery of the one true God. The Générateur, formerly a movie theater called the Gaîté-Palace, is brainchild of choreographer and dancer Anne Dreyfus and painter and entrepreneur Bernard Bousquet, who turned into a minimalist performing arts space in 2006. Their idea is an open-door, independent and artist-run venue where performing, visual, plastic arts, theater and poetry can freely mix and match. The FRASQ performances, first put together in 2009, are, with a range of other events and exhibitions, fruit of more than ten years’ effort. Photo©BertrandBousquet It’s true. This infinite sample of possibility provided by Coline Joufflineau proves beyond a doubt that every little thing is different A frasque is an “escapade”, associated with the sense of “flabby” or “flaccid,” suggesting unfinished work or work that doesn’t meet expectations: “Ray-gun, indeed, Ms. So-Called Inventor. Why, it hardly slows up even the drunks.” I mention the etymology not because I am a Monday evening etymologist but because FRASQ takes a “happening” approach to performance. Performers are asked to show the “undone” or, as one might say, “not yet hardened”, and also “not to worry about making art”, creating out of savoir-faire but also out of their... Continue reading
Posted Sep 19, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
The memoirs of Simone de Beauvoir, but not La Deuxième Sexe (“The Second Sex”), for which she is best-known and honored around the globe, were added in May 2018. It is impossible to say why. Continue reading
Posted Sep 12, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
Historical etymology! What a marvelous sump of self-satisfying instruction! Badaud, the French word for “gawker”. Give it here. We can say it comes from the late Latin for “largely open”, then “yawn”, then through Provençale, “gawker”. The Sunday afternoon logic of it all is both pleasingly moralizing and cynical, suggesting, as it may, that curious on-looking is slack-jawed idleness and that openness is no virtue. But times have advanced since the Middle Ages. With gun and camera, today’s entertainment possibilities go well beyond beating mules and simpletons. In the age of choice, the stakes are high, too. The idle and open may now choose between the darkly-thrilling hope that a sharp click and sudden crack turn a muddy quarrel into limpid homicide or an unexpected performance. For instance, painter and performance artist Chloé Silbano’s Simile, visual free verse around a watch, time and a guy. Behind the church of Saint Julien des Pauvres, parallel to the Seine, tethered to a perfect long-evening on a stony delta cut out from the otherwise narrow rue de la Bûcherie, at n°5, in front of Alma espace d’art gallery, a well-built, self-possessed guy in a blank sandwich board sits still on a short-leg sawhorse bench. The man wears a magic-marker time piece that shows just after ten. The custom time piece had been charmingly designed out of public gaze by Chloé Silbano. Chloé Silbano is a thin, almost spindly, woman with a pile of red hair and a camera squatted taking the pictures here declaimed, a claim, a stake in fame. A person is master of their doings, so the law says. Before the marker ink has even properly dried, the guy rubs the watch face. It fades beneath the touch. Using the woman’s own magic marker, off his own bat, the man adds a bit to her design. Time passes. Just a bit. The man wets his big fingers. He dirties his hand, the fleshy hump of his palm; the small crowd can't see it, though, and his fingers blacken: ten has disappeared into the grown smear. The photograph shows that as Silbano photographs the woman’s short jeans have shown the worsted flower patterns of her stockings through the whole time. Some people can’t resist a free drink. But the small crowd has now dispersed. Continue reading
Posted Sep 5, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
Photo©Max Vaduk Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker in an early performance of her groundbreaking "Violin Phase", part of her larger work "Fase, Four Movements to the Music of Steve Reich" (1982) Albert Einstein said that imagination is more important than knowledge and, both inventor of a model of the whole universe and refugee from a political nightmare, he would have known. That’s why, at least here at a sticky table at the Bal perdu café, dance – once subordinate to music and mere complement to the eternal word – is important, why choreographer Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker is my Fall newsmaker of choice, with a wide variety of her performances figuring in the Fall Paris Performance Calendar The Paris Festival d’Automne (a “biography” of which features in The Best American Poetry, March 14, 2018) this year honors de Keersmaeker as a dancer and choreographer, giving an attentive spectator the opportunity to recognize her contribution to the promotion of the “movement arts” – dance, dance-performance – a contribution that will grow and flourish as new, diverse, performing artists come to maturity in coming years. A quick glance at the creative collaborations and performers on view in the festival’s offer shows that de Keersmaeker is as much a determined activist and promoter of dance and movement performance as she is a dancer and choreographer. Photo© Paula Court Andros Zins-Browne, an alumnus of P.A.R.T.S, performing "Already Unmade" at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2017. The creation figures in the Festival d'Automne's Portrait of Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker program. Herself an alumna of Maurice Béjart’s Ecole Mudra, the seedbed of contemporary dance-performance in Europe, de Keersmaeker is the founder of the dance performance school P.A.R.T.S (Performing Arts Research & Training Studios, Brussels). With alumni and teachers such as Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Salva Sanchis, both in view in Paris’ Fall 2018 season, and, just off the top of my head, diverse others such as Noé Soulier, Daniel Linehan or Boris Charmantz, whose work goes well beyond de Keersmaeker’s own choreographic practice, P.A.R.T.S is a seedbed for contemporary dance and performance. Known for pure vivacity in movement and geometrical precision in spectacle and today a fixture in Europe’s dance-performance firmament, de Keersmaeker, who was born, brought up and is still based in Belgium, has said that music taught her everything. Keersmaeker debuted as a choreographer in 1980 with Asch but came to notice in 1982 with a choreography in dialogue with Steve Reich’s processive suite of Piano Phase, Come Out, Violin Phase and Clapping Music. De Keersmaeker founded her Rosas dance company in 1983, concomitant with her celebrated Rosas danst Rosas piece, whose ability to generate passion from abstract minimalist gesture and repetition has made it a milestone in post-modern choreography. Since the beginning of her career, de Keersmaeker has sought to develop a distinctive, what I call, “co-expressive”, choreography with polyphony, classical, atonal, jazz and rock, from the late medieval Ars subtilor (En attendant, 2010) to Bach (Mitten wir im Leben sind, 2017)... Continue reading
Posted Aug 29, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
“Oranges and lemons say the bells of Saint Clements … Here comes a grinding machine to grind down your head!” The iconography has changed a lot since the 40s – 50s. The older edition of Orwell’s dystopian farce features a naked man (who somehow seems to wear leotards) confronted with a giant cog-thing that suggests a machine. In those days, when many felt machine culture would smooth off all the angles that made us us, “Where do I fit and how do I fit there?” was the question to answer. Sometimes, I wish those grinding machines had succeeded, don’t you? I was on my way to see Karine for lunch for the first time in quite some time. I am arhythmically tapping my foot to the soundless poprock of my Apple-brand Walkman, twitching nervously through the throwaway newspaper. I appreciate the horoscope and read the one for each of the people I love who love me plus two for me – believe me, not many, so I have time for the squibs before my stop, Glacière – “icebox”, the stop for la Santé, the legendary prison, which is just up the way from the establishment where she sometimes works. By the way, the design of the original la Sante building is based on Bentham’s Panopticon: its architecture is meant to aid inmate rehabilitation by keeping them in solitary confinement and under continuous surveillance, a Utilitarian conceit called the “Philadelphia System”. In May, a squib cried, Gallimard, the legendary French-language literary publisher, would bring out a new, updated edition of George Orwell’s 1984, translated by Josée Kamoun. The squib cited changes such as “neoparler” for “novlangue” for “newspeak” and other new neologisms for Orwell’s coinages, as well as use of the present tense instead of the literary-narrative imparfait. I got the impression that, somehow or another, the new publication, at 14€ Kindle, had used translation to “update” the text, like, say, a new English translation might throw light on some facet of Proust’s dense humorous prose; after all, reading Henry James in French is like reading a fresh-baked James, a pain au chocolat at coffee, topping off a strawberry jam-smeared muffin at breakfast. Alas, my electronic reader does not yet even read my books for me, let alone compare and analyze them, so I can make only a weakly and partial assessment; ultimate judgment is still up to me. So, although Kamoun has a finer sense of farce and is a better writer than the historic translator, Amélie Audiberti, she, Kamoun, has not been able to raise up an updated, new or improved 1984 from the timber of la langue de Proust. The new 1984 is just a same-old same-old translation with the great fault of all translation everywhere: since the translator can never have the original author’s knowledge and experience or his or her sense of lexical nuance, it’s never really anything more than a distorted mirror of the original. So, for example, in this Kamoun version, as in the... Continue reading
Posted Aug 15, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
PERFORMANCES & CREATORS TO WATCH features reviewed dance pieces, dance-performances and performances, along with short biographies of associated choreographers, performers and other actors. It complements the Paris Performance Calendar's AGENDA & PERFORMERS headings. It is regularly updated. PERFORMANCES MY SOUL IS MY VISA • Marco Berrettini • 70 min • MC93 - Nouvelle salle • Rencontres chorégraphiques internationales, May 2018 • Α My soul is my Visa plays on the spontaneity of live interaction ... Continue reading
Posted Jul 30, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
"Les Enfants du 209, Rue Saint Maur, Paris Xème", directed by Ruth Zylberman is as absorbing as that wonderful Italian cinematic opera di saponi, La meglio gioventù, (The Best of Youth), directed by Marco Tullio Giordana, written by Sandro Petraglia and Stefano Rulli The warm days are de retour. The other day, not far from where rue Saint Maur runs into the avenue Parmentier, I sat down for coffee with two women acquaintance, Orsola and Corinne. In the course of friendly chatting in which I was diligently, we could even say, desperately, trying to please, politics came up. My face reddened, strong knot tightened in my stomach; I suddenly needed to bite, to scratch, to maul, to run down and kill. It may very well be, it certainly is, that my political phobias are true phobias and that I am right but my feeling was all down to my Aunt Helen. She is why I always want to please people of the woman persuasion, maybe even why I search them out for company. Also, I share a lot of my emotional makeup with her. Aunt Helen was a beautiful woman, ‘though, for the life of me, I can not recall her hair or eye color or whether she was tall and thin or short and squat. But I can feel her in my bones. I can smell her farm-kitchen scent and hear her breathily ahtaahlkin’… Aunt Helen’s was a womanly bosom where I was a single and unique. I needed that. I feel her caress yet, the brush of her fingertips, now; I bathe in her warmth still, as I sit here. With such introduction, I think, did I early learn to love womanly company not my mother. Aunt Helen, actually one of several great aunts, with three handsome children and a fine, deferential husband, also constable of Somerset, was the youngest sister of her large, late-19th-century American family. As such, it was part of Yahweh’s design that Helen, daughter and sister, take care of her grandparents, parents, sisters and brothers, especially as they became infirm and like to die. This meet disposition of things, which proves that duty, especially family duty, is a great motivator of human affairs, is why Aunt Helen, otherwise a mere female, was nevertheless a landed magnate and a friendly-society bank. She had the family’s house and farm – parts of which were log and daub and others, stone, clapboard, brick and Queen Anne's lace. The family’s old and “nervous” – as we then referred to those in existential distress – found a home with Aunt Helen down at the farm. Also, Aunt Helen was, as the good old gods are my witness, 452nd iteration of her most imperturbable Queen of Misrule and Mistress sans pair of Liberty Hall. Surely more energetic than nervous and, as they then believed, more like to go on forever than die, grandchildren spent splendid summers there, soused with sassafras beer and rolling in homemade ice cream. Aunt Helen enjoyed... Continue reading
Posted Jul 4, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
The wave is the primary choreographic trope of Lisbeth Gruwez’s exciting new dance piece. Photo©dannywillems18 THE SEA WITHIN • Lisbeth Gruwez, choreographer • Maarten Van Cauwenberghe, sound creation, with Elko Blijweert & Bjorn Eriksson • company Voetvolk vzw • Belgium Ω Performers, New Théâtre de Montreuil, May 2018: Ariadna Gironès Mata, Charlotte Petersen, Cherish Menzo, Dani Escarleth Pozo, Francesca Chiodi Latini, Jennifer Dubreuil, Liadain Herriott, Natalia Pieczuro, Sarah Klenes, Sophia Mage, Wei-Wei Lee / Lighting: Harry Cole / Scenography: Marie Szersnovicz / Costumes: Alexandra Sebbag Artist performance calendar From the sustained applause and the large number of folk lingering in the foyer to get a look at the Voetvolk troupe, it’s safe to say Lisbeth Gruwez’s The Sea Within is a public success. Sea, which premiered at the Nouveau théâtre de Montreuil as part of the Rencontres choréographiques internationales festival, is the Belgian choreographer’s first piece in which she doesn’t herself figure as performer, and remarkable for an especially intimate, sustained interplay of sound and choreography – an interplay for which her pieces are always notable. For Sea, Gruwez challenges herself to transmit through, essentially, words and looks, a very personal – very corporal – sense-vision without benefit of body. For me, thinking here in particular of It’s going to get worse and worse my friends, Gruwez is always reaching to use dance to transmit sense, a seamless mix of mind and body. So as Sea challenges Gruwez to get her sense-vision across by, as it were, talking and flailing her arms a lot, the 11 performers (10 women and Maarten Van Cauwenberghe’s Sound) are challenged to dance sense: force and passion enough, but also moral conviction enough, to deny the mind-body split. This is only a slight exaggeration. Gruwez is systematic as well as abstract in her thinking. In her note on The Sea Within, for instance, she writes that she is expressing the “tribal individual” – a concept borne out of her experience of zooming in on the pure individual in her recent Penelope piece (which she says has her turning round and round for 20 minutes), which then determined her to work on “human-scapes” rather than individuals. As I understand it, the “tribal individual” is a sort of e-pluribus unum psychic structure within each person and within which each person lives with others, a “tribality of being”, if you will. To put her sense-vision in motion, Gruwez’s choreography launches a pulse… something like a Fibonacci series which shapes as it swells along the course of the performance. The 10 performers in casual, individualizing postures and spread in the shadows around the three sides of the stage mat represent the condition in which a “prime mover” “just moves”. This “just movement” is visually tagged by the performer being the only person in a cast of strongly-built, expressive women to enjoy a milk-chocolate skin, a striking contrast that also suggests a distinctive warmth and sensuality; black is the color of the unknown unexplorable. Her movement – at first tentative,... Continue reading
Posted May 23, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
AGENDA - SEPTEMBER, OCTOBER, NOVEMBER, DECEMBER Paris Performance Calendar is a work-in-progress “dance syllabus”, complemented by essays, articles and interviews from The Best American Poetry and other publications. Below are Paris Performance Calendar's AGENDA & VENUES, featuring selected upcoming or current shows. Click to consult PERFORMANCES & CREATORS TO WATCH, which features reviewed dance pieces, dance-performances and other performances, along with short biographies of associated choreo... Continue reading
Posted May 11, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
"And-and" – performance and dance, high and low, side by side, up and down, back and front, blue and red – is as much part of Rencontres' tradition as of its esthetic mission: Lisbeth Gruwez and Paula Pi and Daniel Eveillée and Oona Doherty and Yu-Ju Lin and Ashley Chen and Marco Berrettini and Mylène Benoit and Giuseppe Chico & Barbara Matijević and... Spotlight on mission and tradition and esthetics and politics For May, June & July, the first entries of Paris Performance Calendar feature selected billings from Rencontres chorégraphiques internationales en Seine Saint Denis, an annual festival of international contemporary choreography making the international scene. Rencontres sees itself carrying on an avant garde esthetic mission and contemporary social engagement – “cultivating fresh contemporary choreography that presents a sharp, poetic look at the world around” – and a tradition – it’s been nearly 50 years since Jaque Chaurand founded a show-case for la nouvelle danse française with the Concours de Bagnolet/Les Ballets Pour Demain, which Rencontres claims as its organizational forerunner. And it’s true. Despite profound social, political and cultural change in France, in dance and in Rencontres' own organization since Les Ballets started up in 1969, Rencontres still has the noos – the sense of theory, practice and trending themes – that enables dance and performance lovers to accept and then to enjoy – to unblushingly and-and – the very different performance fare of deeply individual choreographic expression. … And Lisbeth Gruwez and Paula Pi and Daniel Eveillée and Oona Doherty and Yu-Ju Lin and Ashley Chen and Marco Berrettini and Mylène Benoit and Giuseppe Chico & Barbara Matijević and... And-and is as much part of the tradition as of the mission. Among the better-known winners of Chaurand’s Concours de Bagnolet, are choregrapher’s like Maguy Marin, who premiered an agitprop modern-dance performance, deux-mille-dix-sept, this past December, Philippe Decouflé, who founded his Cie DCA – Diversity, Comradeship, Agility –troupe in Bagnolet in 1983) and whose technically-recherché Nouvelles Pièces Courtes is featured in May at the Palais de Chaillot and Angelin Preljocaj, whose classy Blanche Neige ballet opens on to summer at La Villette at the end of June. "And-and" is as much about Rencontres' liberal values as of left-wing politics: Among the better-known winners of Chaurand’s Concours de Bagnolet, were Maguy Marin, who premiered an agitprop modern-dance performance, "deux-mille-dix-sept", this past December, 2017 With performances, in principle, only in the Seine Saint Denis department, Rencontres embodies the one time marriage of liberal, internationalist and progressive culture values with illiberal leftist politics and an ongoing tendency to express its politics in left-wing terms. Though it is hard to imagine, let alone properly describe, the ins and outs of a politics that allies an essentially hyper-aesthetic, individualist, expressionist dance movement with a concrete-obsessed, rough and tough communist leadership struggling to house and feed succeeding waves of workers from Europe, then from across the world, this alliance happened and continues to have consequences. It enabled Chaurand to find a home for his “future... Continue reading
Posted May 9, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
“What a charming amusement for young people this is, Mr. Darcy. There is nothing like dancing after all. I consider it one of the first refinements of polished society.” “Certainly, Sir; and it has the advantage also of being in vogue amongst the less polished societies of the world. Every savage can dance.” - Pride & Prejudice, Sir William Lucas & Fitzwilliam Darcy (Chapter 6, the ball at Netherfield) BEYOND WORDS As for Darcy, as for Paris Performance Calendar “Dance” is the only art that is both intimately local and infinitely global. In this new creation, Totemic Studies, Matthieu Barbin explores totems and the psycho-cultural challenges that face the developed countries. Photo: Totemic studies, Matthieu Barbin © Tourgueniev Paris Performance Calendar is a regularly updated work-in-progress “dance syllabus”, complemented by essays, articles and interviews from The Best American Poetry and other publications. The first Paris Performance Calendar, scheduled for the week of 7 May and covering May, June & July, will feature selected performances from the dance & performance festival Rencontres chorégraphiques internationales en Seine Saint Denis 2018, in addition to two contemporary ballet offerings recommended by my friends at DanseAujourdhui. VENUES & AGENDA Rencontres chorégraphiques internationales en Seine Saint Denis, which runs from 16 May to 16 June over 13 venues in the Seine Saint Denis department this year, sees itself as a “festival défricheur”, cultivating fresh contemporary choreography that takes a sharp, poetic look at the world around – whether the perspective is that of a young woman from France experimenting Japanese dance forms, established European performers presenting a new creation, or choreographic newbys trying their hands or esthetic-professional-cultural-geographical points in between: Mylène Benoit, Marco Berrettini, Yu-Ju Lin, Oona Doherty, Daniel Léveillé... Photo: My soul is my visa © Marco Berrettini Paris Performance Calendar is called a “syllabus” because it is an informed, if selective, listing of live visual performance in Paris, intended as a tool to help my fellow poets better understand and follow (and participate in) the living arts scene. In its Agenda, Performers, Performances and Venues sections Calendar features live (non-word based) dance, performance and visual works, their creators, performers and contributors, along with the management and expertise of local venues or sponsoring events organizations that are associated with these. PERFORMANCE AGENDA BLANCHE NEIGE • Angelin Preljocaj (2008) • Grande Halle de La Villette • 5, 6, 7 July, 2018, 20.30h – 8 July, 16h • 90 min Λ “Schneewittchen” to the Grimm Bros., “Snow White” to you, partner, Preljocaj told L’Express that his Blanche Neige reflects contemporary problems of older women having difficulties to leave the way open to the mädchens: “...You just have to look at women between 50 and 60 to see it.“ Well. At least it’s not Disney and, despite the casual pop-psych misogyny, good choreography is good dancing. Ω This production features costumes by Jean-Paul Gaultier, such as a leather-bound wicked stepmother, prowling the inflamed airs of Gustav Mahler along with an honest-to-goodness Paris-Opéra-quality set by Thierry Leproust. Photo: Blanche... Continue reading
Posted May 2, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
Author Olivia Burton & illustrator Mahi Grand move Algeria’s beauty beyond wide open spaces The other day the charm of a poster beguiled me into visiting Musée du quai Branly Jacques Chirac for an exhibition called Peintures du lointain, paintings of exotic subjugated people and places by Europeans of the colonial era. It’s an odd truth that everything turns to metaphor as time goes on. Also, many things advertised as one thing just turn out to be quite another, no metaphors involved: Peintures, for instance, is about colonialism, mostly in North or West Africa – places like Algeria or Senegal, as rendered, mostly, in paint, charcoal and encre de Chine. And though it may, much, much later, turn out to be a handsome metaphor, for now the exhibition is definitely just a squib. Worse than mere esthetic disappointment, Peintures provoked vague moral depression in me – as my late brother used to say, there was the whiff of brimstone but no devil in the damned thing. As I wandered through, I could just smell, off-stage, the sickly night-sweat of Rimbaud beguiled into gun-running and slave dealing by the urge to respectability, hear the revolver’s echo just out of earshot, but, though respectability did, has done, does so much to propel cruel and bootless enterprise, there was no actual reference to it and its relation to the notion of exotic in the exhibition… Luckily, synchronicity is at work in my life. Yours, too, maybe. When I got home from Peintures, I was cheered up to find a package in the mailbox. I took it on upstairs and while anxiously tearing off the tough plastic stuff the sender had wrapped it in, I banged into the bookshelf. The resulting jiggle caused Ferdinand the Bull, a book that reminds me of the delight of reading to my young son, to tumble to the floor, along with Algérie, c’est beau comme l’Amérique, a graphic novel by Olivia Burton very charmingly illustrated by Mahi Grand, which will be published in a few days in the US as Algeria is Beautiful like America. I keep Algérie around because it moves me; I love the character of Djalla, the guide. A photo of Jacques Chirac – former mayor of Paris, former President of the Republic – which I cut out of a newspaper long ago now, fluttered from between the pages of Ferdinand, preternaturally settled on the coffee table. I pick it up. Despite all manner of earthly honors, titles and rewards, and ‘though he died at home in bed, respectability, as for Rimbaud, always eluded Chirac. I can’t really say and, as far as I know, Chirac never rudely went at a photographer with his sword-cane, but I believe responsibility for this lies in a combination of the odd look on wife Bernadette’s face and a certain slouch he seemed to bear as he strolled through life. Chirac is the very image of mensch in the photo, lolling in a chair, pinching a fattish cigarette. No... Continue reading
Posted Apr 11, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
“Rencontres internationales de Seine-Saint-Denis” from 16 May to 16 June 2018, will feature, among other outstanding choreographers and performers from across Europe, Lisbeth Gruwez, Oona Doherty, and new talent Matthieu Barbin in the Castel San’Angelo of radical contemporary dance A Paris live performance festival smooths out culture conflicts, supports creative endeavor, and helps live dance and performance lovers get their heads around the scene. When wandering to and from, having forgotten both paperback and Mp3, I generally spend some time puzzling the words written on the subway walls. Sometimes, too, I find myself in what you might call a Mene, mene, tekel, parsin situation – and have, over the years, been called to prophecy. One of these situations was the transport agency’s “Paris Patchwork” marketing campaign, which against all sense and reason, seemed to preen itself on its “patchwork-ness” and vaunt the “hodgepodge-ness” of its services. Call me “Daniel.” Here’s the interpretation. “Patchwork”, applies, and is a virtue, only when it comes to dance, dance performance or performance. And then, while many in other fields may try, only Creative Endeavor in live performance may, proudly, “hodgepodge”, or be “hodgepodge”. Forcement, therefore, “patchwork” written on the subway wall is a sign we are talking of Paris dance & performance, not of Paris transport. This comes to me from above. Forcement, therefore, the Word must be “festival” when it comes to dance performance “patchworks”, and or “hodgepodging”, in Paris. This comes to me from beyond. It is an evidence, then, that a Paris live performance festival patches up then smooths out geographical, historical and culture hodgepodges, supports creative endeavors at home, in Europe and beyond, carries forward culture policy and, we can suppose, uses limited marketing resources more effectively than might otherwise be true. Since each festival focuses on a different aspect of French and European creative ventures, aligning to a festival is also a way for live dance and performance lovers to get their heads around the scene and its venues – the interesting fund of theaters and culture centers to be found across the city and region. “Festival d’automne”, whose program N°47 for Fall 2018, will put the focus on Japan, includes prestige Paris venues such as Atelier de Paris- Carolyn Carlson, but also places like Maison des arts de Créteil, the sponsor of the Kalypso hip-hop festival, and Nanterre-Amandiers one of the first theaters in the image of '68, mixing classic contemporary and contemporary, popular, and conceptual dance and dance performance, as well as a wide variety of other live performance forms ‘Though they are certainly not the only live performance festivals – at institutional venues such as La Villette or Théâtre Monfort doing circus, for instance – Festival d’automne & Festival Kalypso, Faits d’hiver & Rencontres internationales de Seine-Saint-Denis do embody all the principles that make a Paris festival a good tool for organizing creative patchwork and negotiating esthetic hodgepodge. Festival d’automne covers the spectrum of live music and live or visual performance (including classical dance or ballet... Continue reading
Posted Mar 14, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
A remarkably rare candid moment in the world's behavior, "La Femme et l'oiseau" by Parisian engraver and illustrator France Dumas captures a bird in her bird mask, perchance to chatter, perchance to take wing I’ve learned from the throwaway newspaper – as well as from personal observation – that the Seine has once again risen high. But the grumpy lady with the big rough-plastic sack between her knees, sleep-deprived brats dossed either side, knows as well as we all do that the rise is not because it’s been just pissing rain these long, hopelessly wintry, days. – You! Close those curtains! I’ve already said it once: The relentlessly grey sky has nothing to do with it! Those dull, dull, dull heavens are, in fact, a prime example of the pathetic fallacy. Anywhere else you’d have to pay for such a perfect illustration of a literary trope, but not here, not in Paris, not now, not me. It's emotions, not the rain, makes the Seine rise. Let’s prove it. Whenever anybody was upset by one of his actions, Marc, my former brother-in-law and a pocket Everyguy if ever there were one, used to cry, pathetically, fallaciously and quite sincerely, Pourquoi tant d'emotions? – “Why so many emotions?”. As if we were permitted, for example, fear, but not surprise or fury. With the Seine now bulking large up and down stream every year and with more than 30 years of hindsight, I can answer Marc without the help of a baseball bat. So many emotions, Everyguy, because most of us now realize that, without any shadow of doubt, this world here-below is more of feeling and emotion than of fact and reason. It is no accident, then, that the famous fleuve is now poised, has always in fact been poised, to engulf then sweep away the Academie française, the Assemblée nationale & the Musée du Louvre – Reason, Law, Science – along with the three pillars of capitalism, Punishment, Charity & Hard Cash: the Conciergerie, Hôtel Dieu and les Touristes. Though sturdily built on deep foundations, can reason, law and science hold steadfast against such repeated assaults? Dark thoughts aside, that we’ve finally noticed and that feeling and emotion are finally getting due recognition is not a bad thing. It’s just that feeling and emotion are not what anybody wants to deal with. And what nobody wants to deal with is always portentous, laden with doom, an excuse for one drink too many. Maybe the Seine’s pathetic fallasizing is partly a result of #metoo (or as they say here, using imagery that suggests a splash, #balancetonporc, “#givethebrutetheheaveho”). After all, haven’t women always been mocked and spurned for entertaining useless feeling and senseless emotion? Ha! No-account hysterical females! It turns out that the girls, anyhow, those of them such as have been mocked and spurned for feeling and emoting, have been telling the truth all along. All this truth, wanted or unwanted, and all this literary figuring, pathetic or fallacious or not, can... Continue reading
Posted Feb 1, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
Jann Gallois’ choreography focuses on precision in the expression of movement. Maria Fonseca, Jann Gallois, Erik Lobelius, Amaury Réot, Aure Wachter search synchrony (and synchronicity) in “Quintette”. Photo©2017Patrick Berger Seeing the premiere of Jann Gallois’ Quintette – "Quintet" – at the Atelier de Paris – Carolyn Carlson this past December put me in mind of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five novels for kids. That’s because, one summer day, on the way out to play, my son idly plucked up a dusty copy of one of the adventures from a musty shelf, opened the cover and immediately plopped down on the floor, utterly absorbed. His absorption pretty much represents my reaction to the piece, which will feature at the end of March, beginning of April 2018, at the Théâtre National de Chaillot. My appreciation comes down to this: the emotions raised by Gallois’ choreographic argument become, in effect, the choreography of the piece. She aligns choreography closely to ordinary relational movement (the fruit, I guess, of being literate in hip-hop and contemporary dance performance). Her approach holds together as performance because it focuses on the precision of the expression of movement rather than on the movement itself. The five performers use a sort of gestural tool kit – desire (for the other/for recognition by the other), power, position, trust, affection – to build firm symmetries of emotional call & response. Just as soon as any of a symmetry’s facets push too hard on any other or the negative or positive distance between one body and another slips out of sync, the whole symmetry dissolves into a fluid of searching bodies. So, technically, Quintette does exactly what Gallois told me it would during an interview summer last, when she was creating it. In the image of the 2016 trio-performance Carte Blanche, Quintette tests the capacity of human bodies to synchronize. But, much more to the point for me, like Compact, the piece that brought Gallois to my notice, Quintette opens up emotions that sweep the spectator along and, at the end, leaves him or her wondering about the nature of people rather than of the bricks and mortar of choreography. I am not the only one to feel more than see Gallois’ choreography. I first saw Compact in the course of the month-long Rencontres chorégraphiques internationales de Seine-Saint-Denis dance-performance festival a couple of years ago. The guy squinched up against me on the hard concrete bleacher-like seat in the steam-cooker of a performance space we were parked in nudged me in the ribs with his elbow. He asked, hoarsely, I swear, whether I’d ever seen Gallois perform. When I said I hadn’t, he slapped his forehead and said the equivalent of Golly! Are you in for a treat! “This crazy man is surely a relative,” is what I told myself at the time. He was so rigidly attentive as the piece opened that I thought I had every reason to believe I was in for a little neighborly crazy-man catalepsy. But, no. I... Continue reading
Posted Jan 17, 2018 at The Best American Poetry